* Italy's Eni targets 2 mln customers by end 2020
* Eni bets that state will allow more competition
* EDF still has 86 pct electricity market share
(Adds Eni comment on competition, detail on other players)
By Benjamin Mallet
PARIS, March 28 Italy's Eni, already
France's second-biggest gas retailer, said on Tuesday it will
launch an electricity retail offer and is targeting 1 million
French gas and power customers by year-end.
The entrance of a major new competitor on the French
residential power market will be another blow to former monopoly
power vendor EDF, which is seeing its margins slide as
new players win customers with sharply priced offers.
Eni said in a statement that the French retail power market
"offers incredible growth potential" as energy bills are a heavy
burden for consumers.
Eni in 2012 entered the French gas market - dominated by
former monopoly player Engie - with its own brand and
by the end of February had won 700,000 customers. It had 2016
sales of 1.2 billion euros ($1.30 billion) in France.
In November 2016, Eni also started selling power to
companies and now has some 1,500 client sites. By end 2017, it
wants to add about 300,000 more customers and by 2020 Eni aims
for 2 million clients, half in power, half in gas.
Four years ago, as its gas sales in France started taking
off, Eni said it had no plans to enter the French electricity
market because it was too tightly controlled by EDF.
Eni France Gas & Power head Daniel Fava said the power
market in France, unlike most other big European countries, was
highly political and that the state was putting a brake on free
"We are betting that the market will become less
politicised," he said.
Eni expects that the scrapping of regulated tariffs for
residential gas and power customers in France - on which the
State Council must rule in the coming months - will facilitate
the appearance of new power vendors. Regulated tariffs for
business customers were scrapped at the start of 2016.
EDF's competitors say the government is artificially keeping
regulated tariffs low, making it hard for them to compete with
Eni will offer several formulas to its customers, competing
on price with EDF, which at the end of 2016 had a market share
of 85.8 percent of all client sites.
Gas utility Engie has an 8 percent market share,
followed by independent retailer Direct Energie,
which has a 5 percent share. Direct Energie told Reuters in
January that by 2020 it aims to nearly double its client base to
4 million and targets a market share of 10 percent.
Last year, oil major Total bought Belgian power
retailer Lampiris, which is also building up a retail client
base in France.
($1 = 0.9206 euros)
(Writing by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Ed